Patients and their wellbeing must remain the priority for the industry if the potential of medicinal cannabis is to be realised over the coming years, Medicinal Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA) chair Peter Crock has said.
In his opening address at the 2023 ACannabis conference in Melbourne, Crock urged delegates to remain “mindful” that cannabis is “an almost exclusively unregistered medicine” which is highly regulated.
Ensuring the sector operates to the highest possible standards is vital for its future success, he said.
“It is critical that as an industry we build and demonstrate a culture of doing things the right way, ethically, with integrity and in full compliance with the law,” Crock told the audience at Melbourne’s Centrepiece venue.
“This is how we will build the trust and confidence of all the communities with which we engage, and protect the reputation of our industry.
“MCIA continues to advocate for improved access to medicinal cannabis for patients, while also ensuring that patient safety and wellbeing is not compromised.
“The future for our industry is exciting – if we all work together and keep patients and their wellbeing at the forefront of our focus and activities.”
In a year of new challenges, disruption and opportunities, Crock pointed to the growth in patient numbers and prescribers as the “one constant”.
But while consistent growth builds confidence, long-term industry success will be determined by “a mature approach to policymaking, a commitment to quality, adherence to high ethical standards and improved access pathways for consumers”, he said.
Adding to the body of evidence for cannabis use is also key, he added.
“Our industry and its products have the opportunity to have a profound impact on the way we treat some conditions, the potential to improve the wellbeing of a wide range of patients, and to contribute positively to Australia’s health system,” Crock said.
“Increasingly, however, the need to provide the stewardship and evidential support to see it become part of [the] healthcare options available to patients is very clear.”
Looking ahead, the former Cann Group chief described 2023 as a “significant year” as the industry awaits reforms to TGO 93 which come into effect on July 1.
But he offered only qualified support, suggesting the changes should “somewhat assist” level the playing field for the local industry.
“[The changes] will hopefully support the substantial Australian product that is coming on line later this year and into next,” Crock said.
The MCIA chair also paid tribute to retiring TGA head John Skerritt, describing him as a “great friend of the industry”.
“I would like to acknowledge and thank him for his longstanding support and leadership in helping guide this new industry,” he told the audience.
“While discussions have at times been robust, as they should be with the regulator, John has always been constructive and generous with his time and advice and has genuinely sought to find solutions that assist to deliver good regulation, safe outcomes for patients, and pathways for the industry to grow.”